A BLAST FROM THE PAST; A TIME WARP FROM THE 1980'S AND OH TO BE YOUNG AGAIN!
MY COMMENTS FIRST ON MY VERY OWN 1981 NEWSPAPER ARTICLE ON THE RENOVATION OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA CHURCH IN ALBANY, GEORGIA (BE SURE TO SAY ALL-BENNY!)
Okay, this is going to be good! I was ordained on June 7, 1980. I went to major seminary in St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland, 1976-80. I was influenced greatly by the Sulpician school of liturgy and Father Eugene Walsh, SS both of which were very much influenced by the iconoclasm of the 1960's and 70's in the Church, the liturgy and the seminary!
The pictures below I took with my blackberry from old photos I have and from the Southern Cross Diocesan newspaper which accounts for their poor quality. But you get the idea! My article was rather lengthy and I was surprised the editor of the Southern Cross published it in its entirety on November 19, 1981. I acted as the Master of Ceremonies for this consecration and a month later for another one at St. Joseph Church in Waycross, GA! This combined with the article eventually led Bishop Lessard to name me the Associate Pastor of the Cathedral in 1985 as well as Diocesan Master of Ceremonies and Director of Liturgy.
While the article below and the pictures from 1981 depict my thinking very well and much, I would write today more from the hermeneutic of reform within continuity rather than reform within rupture with the past! Please note, though, and this doesn't shock me, that no where in the article do I discuss the Sacrificial aspect of the Mass--it is the Lord's Supper and our sharing in it! It's all about the banquet, not about the bloody sacrifice re-presented in an "unbloodly way." Nor is there any description of the Holy Eucharist as the "Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ." That was so pre-Vatican II in the 1980's! It is to laugh today! What a time warp!
I had a great deal of influence on this renovation and pushed it mightily through and tried to convince reticent parishioners to get with it! But the one good thing I did do was to convince the renovation committee not to follow Rambusch's demand that the large crucifix on the wall above the altar be removed. I save Jesus crucified! (another example of how the sacrifice of Christ was not emphasized in the post-Vatican II, spirit of Vatican II theology that Rambusch and other church renovators shoved down the throat of the Church in America.
After this Mass was over, many parishioners came up to me and said the altar is too low, we couldn't see a thing! Rambusch only wanted it all to be two steps high so that it wasn't distant and aloof from the congregation! Within a couple of months I regretted this "reckovation!" About ten years ago, this sanctuary was again renovated (restored) and statues placed back where they once had been rather than hidden off to the sides. Everything that goes around comes around again! Enjoy my time warp article below! I'd love to read your comments! But be nice, I was a young whippersnapper!
My article on the front page of our Diocesan newspaper "The Southern Cross" from November 19, 1981!
This photo from the paper of the "before" pre-Vatican II design:
The renovation in progress after the deconstruction:
Bishop Raymond W. Lessard incensing the new altar:
Choir leaders and choir singing from new location next to the altar, please note where the choir director had to stand!
Bishop Lessard celebrating "The Lord's Supper" as it was described in 1981 for the first time on the newly consecrated altar. Please note my modern chalice (my parents gave it to me for my ordination gift) and the baskets of bread in real baskets with napkins below the bread to be consecrated, real food and drink and not to be missed! Please note too the large crystal decanter of wine being consecrated to later be "poured out" into additional "cups" as a sign of Christ's Blood poured out for us!
One of the first school Masses in the renovated Church:
On Saturday afternoon, October 31, (1981) Bishop Raymond W. Lessard dedicated the newly renovated sanctuary of St. Teresa’s Church in Albany (GA). The rites of the solemn ceremony included the sprinkling with water and anointed with chrism of the new altar as well as its incensation. This ritual corresponds to the rites of initiation of Christians through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. Just as we are initiated by the waters of baptism, and anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit for membership and service in the Assembly of God’s people, so to is the altar sprinkled and anointed for service in the midst of God’s people as we celebrate the presence of the risen Christ among us.
When Saint Teresa’s Church building was first dedicated in 1958 by then Bishop Thomas J. McDonough, its worship space was designed to accommodate an understanding of the church liturgy which was primarily the responsibility of the priest assisted by altar boys. The laity passively participated as spectators to what occurred beyond the barrier of the altar railing between the priest and God.
The universal changes promulgated by the Second Vatican Council touched the local churches throughout the world. Saint Teresa’s in Albany began to experience what this renewal meant as the concrete changes began to touch them in the most dramatic way in the mid 1960’s. As the years progressed, the leadership of St. Teresa’s began to realize the broader implications of the symbolic changes in church liturgy. The 1958 design of the church’s worshiping space neither captured nor symbolized the new role of the laity in the total life of the church and its worship. Under the pastorate of Fr. Herbert J. Wellmeier and the parish council, a committee was chosen in the summer of 1980 to come up with a new plan for St. Teresa’s sanctuary. The architectural firm of Rambusch of New York was hired as design consultants for the renovation committee. They are noted specialists in church renovation.
The design concept of the newly renovated sanctuary incorporates the most recent theological thinking on how best to symbolize the presence of Christ in and with the worshiping assembly. We worship God the Father through the presence of His Son Jesus. His presence calls us to actively participate in His life which should touch every aspect of our lives.
The seating around the altar and ambo (pulpit) is arranged in a manner that draws the assembly into the actions of worship. The assembly becomes aware of Christ in and with the gathered community, “Where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.” (Matthew 18:20) The presence of Christ here must be acknowledged and reverenced. The arrangement of chairs allows faces to be seen rather than just the backs of people’s heads. We do not worship privately, but corporately with others.
The assembly gathers around the one table of God’s Word, the ambo, to be nourished by the presence of Christ in the proclaimed Scriptures. “In the beginning was the Word: The Word was with God and the Word was God…The Word was made Flesh, He lived among us…: (John 1:1-14) The presence of Christ here must be acknowledge and reverenced.
Likewise, the assembly gathers around the one table of the Lord’s Supper—the altar. A multiplicity of altars lessens the significance of the one table which is a sign of Christ who is the source of our unity. As a unified assembly aware of our communion with the entire church, we are nourished by the body and blood of our Lord who is present through the signs and actions of blessing bread and wine, and communally eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper-the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The presence of Christ here must be acknowledged and reverenced.
The altar, ambo and celebrant’s chair are centrally located in the worship space of the Church. These furnishings extend far into the assembly eliciting participation and symbolizing the intimacy of Christ with His people—the Church. Statuary and other art work are placed in locations other than the sanctuary so that at Mass the focus of attention is on the various actions of the celebration not on various devotions.
To the left of the ambo and altar is the large baptismal pool. Baptism incorporates the Christian into the assembly of believers. It initiates the Christian into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The baptismal pool with its life-giving water is a powerful symbol of our Christian dignity and responsibility as a priestly people.
To the right of the ambo and altar is the organ and place for the choir. The choir as part of the gathered worshiping assembly does not entertain, but leads the community in singing and actively participating in the worship of the heavenly Father. The move from the choir loft to the side of the sanctuary highlights the ministry of leadership of the choir.
To the rear of the altar and ambo is a beautifully crafted decorative screen. Behind this screen is a devotional area which accommodates eight to ten people. This is where the Holy Eucharist is reserved in the tabernacle for those who are sick and shut-in and for private prayer and meditation. A hanging sanctuary lamp above the screen signifies the presence of the Eucharist I the tabernacle.
The total perspective of the renovated sanctuary immediately encourages the gathered worshipers to focus in upon the faith realities of the presence of Christ in His community, in His Word and in His Supper. St. Teresa’s sanctuary is a model of what other churches in the diocese can do with their pre-Vatican II sanctuary designs.
Father, you have reprimanded yourself enough about your complicity in the various "rupturous acts" of your previous parish assignments. If most of us were honest, many of us would admit that we ALL drank the Kool-Aid of the times. I can remember attending youth Masses in a parish where the priest would have little round pieces of sweetened bread (like hushpuppies) that he would consecrate for us. At one time, I helped plan a youth liturgy where the "homily" was a pantomime set to a weird Pink Floyd instrumental piece ("One of These Days"). And the embarrassment of some of the Charismatic stuff I participated in? I don't even want to go there. I guess I would have done anything in those days to make myself feel like I was being a good Catholic. Maybe that's what you were doing to feel like a good Catholic priest. Let's just thank God that he woke us up from our tragically hip stupor.
Thanks for printing this. Apart from the aesthetic concerns of classic vs modern architecture, it's interesting that your description of the various changes makes sense. I'd seen other written descriptions of the "preferred" architecture as reflected by the USCCB's Art & Environment document that also seemed plausible on the surface.
But it never worked out that way. I wonder if your carefully crafted theology of worship space made it to the pulpit. Were the parishioners instructed on Christ being "acknowledged and reverenced" in the various aspects of the building as you repeatedly mention? Or was it assumed that they'd see the symbolism? Was anything done to combat the trend for people to treat the Mass casually when the alter was transitioned from a place of sacrifice to a table of fellowship?
I was a parishioner at a new parish that built a new modernist monstrosity: complete with seating in-the-round and strangely place windows between the sanctuary and the vestibule. The baptismal pool was raised about 2 feet off the floor. Within two months the priests and deacons were lecturing people not to sit on the edge of the baptismal font (it was actually the best seat in the house) and telling the ushers to keep the doors closed during Mass. If you came late or had to go out to the narthex and come back in, you had to wait for a natural break in the liturgy, like the pause between the 1st reading and the psalm. It was about then that I noticed the flaws of the modernist design. If the baptismal font is a significant place and not a bench to sit on, then don't make it look like a bench or people will use it as a bench. Since everyone can see the door, it's a huge distraction to have people moving in and out of the door. But if the door is in the back, as in a basilica layout, no one notices. Those modernist priests and deacons who didn't care to be told what to do by Rome certainly became authoritarian when it came to lecturing us about how to behave in their building.
In short, they made a building, not a church. Their building was designed for comfort and transience. People would come and spend an hour and leave to go back to their real lives.
Thank God, Father, that He has inspired you away from this nonsense (no offense—I think you agree, it is nonsense!). If you don't mind my asking, what would you say was the "watershed moment" (or moments) in your priesthood where you came to see the Holy Mass in a more traditional light?
Square, good honest comment! Thank you.
What Fr. McDonald is doing is exemplary, and the Latin Rite as a whole should follow suit, when the time is right.
Also, while I understand your merciful approach in identifying the widespread misunderstandings of the time, I do think it should be noted that there were still a few wise priests, religious and layman who did embrace the true reforms of Vatican II, rather than the hedonistic spirit of the age that subverted the reforms. Those holy men and women neither wrecked churches, on one hand, nor abetted the SSPX, on the other, but instead remained just faithful Catholics of the Western Church.
WRECKOVATION ? I don't know if this one really qualifies for that title. Since the church was built in 1958, I would have to guess that whoever oversaw the original construction had to know that the changes of Vatican II were coming. I wonder if many of the original sanctuary furnishings were selected with the knowledge that they would be replaced in a few years. I remember churches of this timeframe, and that was my impression when I sat in the pews. I remember that when the "new altar" was installed, it was often more substantial than the older one it replaced. I also remember that some of these renovations were completed within a week.
What a great way to justify pouring the Precious Blood of Our Lord....Surely the work that you have done at St Joseph is enough reparation for the abuses in the Liturgy :)
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